Canadian Nick Taylor recaps his victory at the 2020 AT&T Pro-Am, becoming the first Canadian to win the event and only the second player to win wire to wire.
PGA Tour: Canadian Nick Taylor revisits victory at the AT&T Pro-Am
JOHN BUSH: We would like to welcome Nick Taylor, the 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am champion, to the interview room. Nick is the first Canadian to win this event, just the second to win in wire-to-wire fashion.
Nick, congratulations on your second PGA TOUR win. If we can get some comments.
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah, it was an incredible week. It was — start to finish. I started my first hole with an eagle. I just felt like I read the greens so well this week and made a lot of crucial putts. Today was such a difficult day with the wind. And again, made some crucial putts even on the first hole, it was a big one for par, and some birdie putts early on to get the round going, and really hung in there in the middle of the round. That chip-in on 15 was obviously massive. So it was just an incredible week tee to green, on the greens, everywhere.
JOHN BUSH: And you move up to No. 13 in the FedExCup standings. I’m assuming this sort of changes your goals and expectations the rest of the season.
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah, it does. It lines me up great for the FedExCup playoffs. Last couple years I felt like I’ve been fighting for my card, so things have changed, which is awesome to be able to make my schedule a little bit more. So all great stuff. Probably hasn’t sunk in quite yet, but yeah, I’m looking forward to some rest today and tomorrow and then playing next week.
JOHN BUSH: Open it up to questions then.
Q. This is your — from an emotional level, when you kind of get through that end of the front nine stretch and all of a sudden you got a five-shot lead, and then coming off 14 when the wind’s blasting and it’s down to two and not even bogeys seem easy. How did you kind of keep yourself steady?
NICK TAYLOR: It was tough, that whole stretch, really 11 through 14. 11, I pulled it a little bit off the tee, but I think I just probably took a little too far line to the left. I didn’t see it bounce. Obviously it ran for awhile. But just took my medicine and made bogey there.
When Phil flew the green on 12, I still thought at best I could fly to the front third of the green, and hit a good shot and it went over and there was no sand in that bunker, similar to what happened to me on Friday. So bogeys were really hard for those two holes. And then 14, the drive was a little left of what I wanted but getting up in that lip of the bunker just made that hole very challenging from there. And we were almost thinking about laying up again, which that’s no bargain having a wedge with all that wind. Then I’m short right and then I’m really trying to minimize the damage of if you come up short there that’s the worst thing you could possibly do. So probably I was a little too careful, went long. And but after that, I think Phil making bogey was probably, you know, to only lose one shot on that hole with the lead to go down to two, I had to remind myself I still had the lead, I knew I was swinging it well and just needed to hit that fairway and I hit a great drive there, so that was nice.
Q. Talk about the conditions today. A lot of guys had trouble throughout the entire day and how that affected your game. And was there anything about your game coming into the week that you thought, I could really do well here?
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah, again, this is my, one of my favorite tournaments of the year. These golf courses really set up well, I think, for my game. But today was really difficult. You knew the first six, seven holes being a lot of helping wind that getting off to a good start would be crucial to kind of ease into the middle of the round because once you got to 11, it was straight into the fan and the greens were firming up. They were getting crispy. So yeah, obviously, it was an amazing start through six holes, kind of let it go away there a little bit. But yeah, it was just very challenging with the wind. And I think, looking at the leaderboard, I didn’t look at it until probably the start of the back nine. Knowing that everyone else was having a difficult time as well, I knew that if I could make some pars that I would be fine, make people have to catch me.
Q. When you’re warming up and it’s pretty cold and the wind’s already blowing and you got that final pairing with Phil, what were you thinking on that little short drive down to that first tee?
NICK TAYLOR: I was thinking about hitting my new big 4-iron — so we have a little 4-iron and a big 4-iron, but it’s the Max, it’s new, it’s a big cavity back and it’s been great this week. But that’s what I was thinking about, where to hit this, potentially hitting 3-wood, but probably going to be the 4-iron and then, from there. But I was actually relatively calm for the scenario going into the round. I didn’t eat much breakfast this morning, slept very average last night, which I expected. But once we teed off, like, I honestly, think playing with the amateurs, it kind of made the round slower and just made a little more time between shots. I didn’t feel, I didn’t ever feel rushed. I think that helped a lot.
Q. Kind of building off that question, but you said yesterday you had never played with Phil before. Given that, what was the interaction like? I saw on the 3rd tee looked like you guys had a backup and a little conversation, and did you have any sort of yikes moment where, I’m playing with Phil final round, and how did you get through that?
NICK TAYLOR: You know, I’ve been — this is my sixth year, so I’ve seen Phil a lot. We have never really had a conversation. But the scenario was probably bigger than actually me playing with him. But he was great. We had some conversations throughout the day. I think probably since the back nine we were just kind of doing our own thing. But, yeah, he was very great to play with. So that was, it was a fun, obviously, a very memorable round to play with him and how much success he’s had here, but he was great to play with.
Q. You kind of alluded to this earlier, but how tough has it been to kind of live on the edge in terms of the top-125 the last couple years? And also, could you talk about the final round at 2018 Wyndham when you obviously played your way into the playoffs that year and how big that was.
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah, it’s not fun hovering around that 125. I’ve been able to keep my card the last couple years, did it a little bit earlier last year. But that final round is probably what I drew back on the most starting today, because in the grand scheme of things I was under way more pressure, I felt like, in that scenario than actually when I was trying to win today. A lot of similar emotions before the round, during the round, really trying to focus on each shot that was ahead of me. But yeah, I drew back on that round a lot and that was very crucial for my career and it’s nice not having to do that again this year at least.
Q. You just won on an iconic venue, you beat a Hall of Famer. Are you excited? Does it feel good? You’re not giving us very much to work with here.
NICK TAYLOR: It feels amazing. Again, I don’t think it’s going to sink in for quite some time. I don’t know if I blocked out the last five hours and just played golf, and you know, now I’m here with winning with a trophy, it’s amazing. But again, I just tried to, as much as I can block that out. But we’re so privileged to be able to play this golf course every year and to win, like you said, and like at iconic place, it’s amazing.
Q. People would look at this and say, Where have you been since you won in 2015? And they even look at your recent list of finishes, a couple missed cuts, a T-32, whatever, you know, I think people would be curious to say, How do you turn that around? How do you go from that to finding whatever it is, big something, little something? What is it?
NICK TAYLOR: It’s a very fine line out here. Like you said, finishing 32nd in Hawaii. You know, that week I felt like I putted pretty poorly and if I had a putting week like I did this week, I think I would have been in contention most of the week.
Last week is a course that really doesn’t set up great for my game and so it’s hard to, there’s going to be plenty of golf courses throughout the year that don’t set up well for your game, some that do. I knew coming in this week that my game’s been great for almost a year now. Really driving it great. And I think we have, my coach, caddie, we have talked about it, really trying to minimize the mistakes that we make that shoot ourselves in the foot and not necessarily execution errors, just kind of maybe more strategy errors. So we were awesome this week. He did a great job this week, my caddie, and it’s such a fine line.
Q. What was the club on 17?
NICK TAYLOR: 8-iron.
Q. And were you thinking 3 when you stood over the chip on 15? Were you thinking making it?
NICK TAYLOR: That was a good spot to miss. I was picking my spot. You know, it’s makeable, for sure, but I was trying to pick my spot. If I had a tap-in par I would have been delighted but it was nice it went in.
Q. And lastly, and you kind of brought this up yourself wit the fighting for 125, if you think about your six years on TOUR, you’ve never lost a card, conditional one year. But you’ve only played in two Majors, you’ve always been around kind of that 100 spot. Did you ever find yourself maybe not setting expectations high enough for you? Does that make sense? By the way, you’re going to the Masters.
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah, you know, it’s tough when you set expectations if, it’s tough when you set them if you don’t reach them, how do you react to that? Is it disappointment? Is it — it’s fine, I have a goal, I want to achieve it. If you don’t achieve it, then that’s fine, figure out a way you can achieve it. But I’ve worked on that and it is hard. There’s so many good players out here. If you told me for 15 years I would finish 110 on the FedExCup, I think I would be fine with that. A lot of times if you have a job the next year you’re pretty pumped with that. So again, now that I have a job for two and a half, three years guaranteed, that’s amazing.
Q. Some of your fellow competitors, they describe you as being mentally tough. What makes you mentally tough and was there a moment today where that really was critical for you?
NICK TAYLOR: After 14 is probably, definitely I’ll look back on where we were having to settle down, calm yourself, remind myself that I still had a two-shot lead. I really wasn’t paying attention a lot. I knew that I felt like Phil and I had a cushion on 3rd for most of the day, and then I saw Streelman made a couple birdies at some point, but Phil was still — I didn’t realize until 17 green that he was, that Phil was in 3rd. But, yeah, I don’t really know what it comes from. I feel like I like being in that moment, I feel like I’m pretty mellow for the most part, so I won’t get too up or down. But, yeah, it’s just, you dream about those scenarios and luckily I’ve been able to pull it through a couple times.
Q. Didn’t you announce that your family was expecting the baby here at Pebble Beach? Could you answer two things then: One, just what it’s like to win when you did that, to win here when you did that; and two, just give us some family details then.
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah, we, everyone that was very close to us we had told before that, but I guess social media-wise we had announced that we were having a baby at the after the U.S. Open here. And then when I won at Sanderson, my wife wasn’t there. We had, I had just gotten my card and she was still working back home and it was actually the last, the day I won was her last shift. She decided to go on casual. So it was crazy that day, to all of a sudden win, she’s not going to work anymore, we were going to be able to travel. And now to have her here with our son Charlie, who is only three months old, my in-laws were here, it was just, yeah, you couldn’t write it much better, to be honest.
Q. What job did she have?
NICK TAYLOR: She was a social worker back in the hospital in Abbotsford, Canada.
Q. I believe you’ve only played in two majors in your career, so how excited are you to play your first Masters and lock up, I think the PGA as well?
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah, that, I don’t think that’s, that’s the one that’s not going to sink in for awhile. To get that invite for the Masters, that’s a tournament that I’ve dreamt about playing my entire life. And I’ve been lucky enough, I think I’ve played three U.S. Opens, a couple were as an amateur, but as a pro on the PGA at Whistling Straights. But I think it’s going to open a lot of doors and I’m excited about that.
Q. Were you aware that no Canadian had won this tournament?
NICK TAYLOR: I wasn’t aware of that. I remember growing up watching Weirsy, he was in contention a couple times. I don’t know if maybe Arron Oberholser beat him that year, but Weirsy had texted me, Ames texted me, Pulling for you. Good luck. But, no, it’s pretty cool to be the first Canadian to do that.
Q. The bigger shot, 6 or 15? I would have to think under the circumstances 15 was bigger, but 6 was, it seemed like it was a key moment as well, because Phil was on in two and you were in the bunker.
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah, that was, 6, again playing straight down wind, I hit 4-iron, 4-iron — it’s more like a 3-iron but 3-iron, 3-iron — and I knew when I hit that shot right that was the place to miss. If anything we wanted to be in that right bunker. And again not thinking hole but picking a spot and to get up close and for both to go in — 15 I think by far was bigger for the moment, to gain another shot. I felt like when Phil tied it up early on to birdie 4 was big and then for us both to birdie 5, that’s such a difficult par-3, I felt like we started to separate ourselves a little bit. But 15 was obviously massive.
Q. And do you feel like in some way you have out-Mickelson’d Mickelson today by doing that?
NICK TAYLOR: I saw his highlights yesterday, he hit some incredible shots around the green. His up-and-down on 13 today was ridiculous. But, honestly, seeing yesterday some of his shots that kind of, I came in it today and we almost came to a match play-type scenario at some point, but I would remind myself to kind of expect the unexpected from him. And so when he had that putt I was like, he’s probably going to make this, this is just something he does. And when it went in – my putt barely missed — but I wasn’t like shell shocked that he had made that putt because his wizardry yesterday and even today, it’s incredible.
Q. I guess you were asked already about Augusta, but a little more detail maybe. Did you — have you ever been there, have you played? When you say you’ve always dreamt of it, did you any specific memories watching it as a kid?
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah, you know when Tiger had won in ’97 was right when I was getting into golf. Mike Weir’s win, I remember being in my basement with my older brother and my dad watching and standing up probably the entire time. And, no, I haven’t been there. So I always hoped that my first time there would be actually competing in the tournament, so again, a lot of stuff’s going to take awhile to sink in, but I think that one is, it’s going to be incredible.
Q. First of all, what were you doing watching Phil highlights and was that the best thing to do before you played with him in the last round?
NICK TAYLOR: I was more curious of just how he was playing and his bunker shots — like I think he plugged in the back of the bunker on 7 yesterday and hit to a foot and that was just mind blowing that you could hit that shot. But I was just curious, to be honest. And he hit some amazing shots and I’m like, all right, well I don’t know if he can keep that up, if he can, great, but if I keep doing what I’m doing, plugging along, hitting fairways and greens then try to make the guys behind me try to beat me.
Q. What do you think Phil was expecting from you?
NICK TAYLOR: I don’t know. I know Tim a little bit better. His brother, Tim, I think was coaching at San Diego when I was in college, but I don’t know.
Q. And as you look back, what did you, what do you think was the greater challenge for you, going into the last round with a one-shot lead over someone of Phil’s pedigree and history here or the wind?
NICK TAYLOR: I think only having a one-shot lead, that’s so minor in a final round, and I knew with the conditions that I had a lead, but I didn’t feel like — if I had a 3- or 4-shot lead I feel like I would have been a lot more nervous, but — what was the second part of your question, sorry?
Q. Stronger challenge was knowing that you got Phil and only a one-shot lead or the wind. Ultimately what was your biggest test today?
NICK TAYLOR: I think it’s a combination of both. Again, when we made the turn it was pretty much me and him, unless — we both started to make some bogeys in the middle there — but I felt like it was me against him and that was a big part of the challenge. And I felt comfortable making that turn that it was just me and him. I wouldn’t say I felt intimidated, I knew I was playing well and I knew the conditions were tough so I just needed to keep doing what I was doing.
Q. To follow-up on that, you would have been more nervous, which makes sense, if you had had a 3- or 4-shot lead, is it safe to say that the most nerves you felt was when you had the 5-shot lead? It’s like you can only fail from there.
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah, like people say you got a big lead you almost don’t know what to do with it. When I got the lead I felt like we were going to the very most difficult holes, so I knew par was going to be awesome. But, again, the shots I was hitting, I didn’t think they were that bad and I just really had to manage bogeys from there. And 14 we both struggled on the hole. Phil, we were both in that bunker and once you get in that bunker on the left, the right ones are okay, but the left ones you’re so far in, that’s such a hard pin, that, yeah, it was, we both were coming back to the field a little bit. But it’s a different feeling because you just don’t get that big a lead very often, you kind of try to keep doing what you’re doing but you’re almost — you try not to count the holes down, how many you have you left, but it’s, those thoughts are going through your head, it’s impossible not to, so I just tried to keep doing what I was doing and luckily it worked out.
JOHN BUSH: All right, congratulations once again to our 2020 champion, Nick Taylor.
NICK TAYLOR: Thank you.
Pebble Beach, California
February 9, 2020
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